Residents from the extractive reserve gather at dawn to travel down-river to a burial of a community member. The landscape and its resources are intimately entwined with the multi-dimensional human well-being of residents, and are sustained by the integrated, land sharing approach of the reserve.

Photo credit: Rachel Carmenta

By Rachel Carmenta, Angela Steward, Adrielly Albuquerque, Renan Carneiro, Bhaskar Vira, and Natalia Estrada-Carmona.

This Plain Language Summary is published ahead of the article discussed; check back soon for a link to the full paper.

We find that land-use facing interventions combining conservation, biodiversity-friendly farming and land tenure (i.e. integrated) for rural residents create not only more impact, but more positive impact for locally salient human well-being than less-integrated approaches, such as agricultural intensification and protected area interventions. We also show that the subjective and relational dimensions of well-being are as important as material dimensions.

Although this may seem intuitive, conventional impact assessments still routinely omit subjective and relational dimensions from appraisals. Land use facing interventions impact the lives and livelihoods of people living in proximity to them. Impact metrics must be expanded to include these ‘fuzzy’ variables if we are to better understand their implications for the lives and livelihoods of the people living in the landscapes they target. Such an expansion of routine impact appraisal is vital in order to enable interventions to better contribute to flourishing well-being in decolonial conservation approaches.

Within the conservation literature there is an extensive debate on the relative effectiveness of land sparing intervention (proposed to ‘spare’ land for nature through agricultural intensification and protected areas), versus land sharing intervention (which incorporate people in the landscape, with low input biodiversity friendly farming in a habitat mosaic). The debate has been polarized and some suggest it has reached a stalemate requiring expansion to focus not only on the biodiversity and yield outcomes of these interventions, but also on the outcomes for people.

This study responds to this gap, and is a comparative appraisal of interventions along a sharing-sparing gradient on locally defined human well-being. It uses perceptions data – meaning that the appraisal comes directly from the viewpoint of the people living in these areas. Perceptions data was collected using the Global Person Generated Index (GPGI). This method allows analysis of what residents perceive constitutes their well-being, and how interventions have impacted it.  It takes a particular interest in the way in which the relational dimensions (e.g. living close to nature, living in the community, being able to produce your own food) of people’s lives form part of their well-being and how this dimension is impacted by interventions.

Our findings have important implications not only for how we measure the impacts of interventions, but also how we design interventions to impact, and contribute, to well-being in locally meaningful ways.